Pollution (EO 9)

Common Indicator 20: Actual levels of contaminants that have been detected and number of contaminants which have exceeded maximum regulatory levels in commonly consumed seafood

Geographical scale of the assessment:
Regional, Mediterranean Sea
Contributing countries:
Contracting Parties by research studies
Mid-Term Strategy (MTS) Core Theme:
1-Land and Sea Based Pollution
Ecological Objective:
EO9. Contaminants cause no significant impact on coastal and marine ecosystems and human health
IMAP Common Indicator:
CI20. Actual levels of contaminants that have been detected and number of contaminants which have exceeded maximum regulatory levels in commonly consumed seafood
Indicator Assessment Factsheet Code:

GES Definition: Concentrations of contaminants are within the regulatory limits for consumption by humans 

GES Targets:

  • State: Concentrations of contaminants are within the regulatory limits set by legislation



The human exposure to chemical contaminants through commercial fish and shellfish species (ca. fisheries and aquaculture, respectively) is one the main concerns with regard the occurrence of pollutants in the marine environment. Wild and farmed marine species are exposed to environmental chemical contaminants through different mechanisms and pathways according their trophic level, which include from filter feeding to predatory species (bivalves, crustaceans, fish, etc.). The understanding of the health risks to humans (maximum levels, intake, toxic equivalent factors, etc.), through the consumption of potentially contaminated seafood is a challenge and a priority policy issue for governments, as well as a major societal concern.

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Assessment methods

The present assessment has been undertaken based on bibliographic studies and scientific documents in the Mediterranean Sea thus there are not yet representative MED POL datasets available for this Common Indicator 20. More, the assessment of the CI 20 will be based, tentatively, on the statistics about the number of detected contaminants and their deviations from legal permissions in commercial fish species set by national, European and international regulations within national jurisdictional areas. These areas will need to be further defined from a spatial scale perspective (i.e. limited by national jurisdiction boundaries, GFCM-FAO subdivisions, etc.) within IMAP.

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Results and Status, including trends

With regard the content of chemical contaminants fish and shellfish, different research studies have been recently conducted in the Mediterranean Sea taking into account a number of legacy and emerging chemicals. At present, scattered datasets all along the Mediterranean sub-basins mostly from research studies are available with few assessments recently undertaken under European marine policy (e.g. the Descriptor 9 under EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive) by European Contracting Parties of the Barcelona Convention. Overall, no major significant concerns or extreme high levels were observed and no confirmation based on temporal trends have been performed yet. Future harmonization and data sharing will improve the assessment in the Mediterranean Sea at a regional scale for this CI 20.

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At present, few research studies and EU policy driven reports (ca. MSFD) in some Mediterranean countries have investigated the occurrence of contaminants in seafood from an environmental perspective (ca. Ecosystem Approach), which are exceeding the maximum regulatory levels established within regulatory standards. Overall, from available studies, no major significant concerns or extreme high levels were observed within these recent research studies by different authors and no confirmation based on temporal trends have been performed yet.

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Key messages

  • Regular datasets are unavailable to perform an assessment of the Common Indicator 20.
  • Chemical contaminants occurrence in fish and shellfish and the possible intake scenarios for population have been studied in different locations, including some of the FAO delimited zones in the Mediterranean Sea for a number of legacy and emerging contaminants within research studies.

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